Investing in Your Team - How Wellness Programs Boost Productivity

Healthy Lifestyle

Tammy George

Group of people part of a team doing a hand stack

Wellness programs in workplaces have increased in popularity in the last decade. With workers spending up to one-third of their life at work, it’s an ideal opportunity to improve workers’ habits and have a positive impact on their health and well-being. Successful programs that improve sedentary rates and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, also benefit the organisation through improved rates of productivity. 

What are Wellness and Wellbeing Programs?

A wellness or well-being program designed for employees of an organisation is aimed at improving the mental, physical, and vocational well-being of staff. The program should also aim to reduce the risk of injury or illness and the impact of stress. The evidence-based strategies should cultivate healthy habits and improve health outcomes, and increase productivity and employee engagement. 

The corporate wellness program should become part of the organisation’s culture.

Why Should Employers Offer Wellness Programs?

Employers today feel more pressured than in previous decades to provide these benefits and assistance programs. A wellness program can help employees reduce psychological stress and related symptoms or concerning issues such as anxiety and headaches. When staff engage in the wellness program, they are more likely to feel supported and not be inclined to leave for a new job.  

Link Between Wellness and Productivity

Wellness programs can reduce presenteeism and increase employee health and productivity. A five-year study in the US showed the most impressive results in employees who are highly engaged in the program. Compared to low-engaged members, highly-engaged members reported 55% fewer unhealthy days which include presenteeism and absenteeism, and less spent on their healthcare. Highly-engaged members also had 35% fewer accidents and emergency visits and 30% fewer hospital admissions compared to members with low engagement.  

In another study, each employee who participated in wellness programs saved their employer $353 annually in recouped productivity due to lifestyle changes. They improved their lifestyle and focused on healthcare which translated to 10.3 hours of additional productive time each year compared to employees who didn’t participate in the wellness program.  

Offering employee health and wellness programs is good for business. There is evidence that the economic return on investment in employee health programs is estimated at between 2:1 and 5:1. With an ageing workforce, the incidence of lifestyle disease in workers is expected to escalate. Preventable diseases, low levels of activity, and workplace injury caused by unhealthy habits are major reasons for the absence of staff members. Good quality well-being programs can benefit the workplace by reducing sick leave, poor job satisfaction, workplace accidents, high-stress levels, and turnover rates.

Benefits of Wellness Programs to the Employee

A wellness program can give employees ideas and support for healthy lifestyle changes. Improved habits regarding diet, sleep, and physical activity over months or years can bring enormous ongoing benefits and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions and mental health illness. 

Well-being is linked to happiness and life satisfaction. Feeling positive about ourselves and life, in general, brings a good state of well-being. Some factors that influence well-being are closely tied to work, while others are more personally related. Some factors include having a network of close friends, a fulfilling career, enough money, the ability to adapt to change, healthy self-esteem, and an optimistic outlook. 

people at work celebrating together and feeling happy

What’s Included in Wellness Programs?

There is a wide range of wellness program components and initiatives that employers can choose from.

Health screening - screening and assessments for blood glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc.

Wellbeing checks - assessing the psychological well-being of employees and offering solutions.

Education - teaching employees everything from nutrition, personal finances, parenting, the impact of ageing, and more.

Meditation - teaching employees how to meditate so they can use the technique to help with stress levels. 

Physical activity - encouraging employees to exercise with walking groups, yoga, tai chi, in-house gyms, etc.

Self-development - encouraging individuals to set goals, be active learners, and practice self-management.  

Illness and injury - helping staff manage their health issues anywhere from disease to recovery from injury.

What to Look For in a Wellness Program Provider

Some organisations are large enough to provide the service with in-house resources. Most organisations look outside the organisation for a provider. Choosing an individual or organisation to deliver a wellness program can be a big decision as it will determine how successful the program can be.

Wellness for Different Organisations

The benefit of using a high-quality provider or in-house team is their ability to determine what employees need and want in a wellness program. The most successful programs are customised to the needs of employees. 

Wellness programs should be customised to fit the organisation. The wellness program for a mining company will be quite different to that of an advertising agency. Employees at one organisation may be dealing with issues that are rarely a concern for employees at another organisation. 

In some organisations, the smoking rates of employees can be far higher than those of another. The latter may decide not to include quitting smoking as part of their program, while the first one may consider this a high priority. Rates of relationship breakdown can also vary across demographics and industries. In workplaces where staff members are involved in FIFO work, relationship breakdown can be a major contributor to stress and depression for workers. Their program could include information on how to maintain a healthy relationship and how to navigate divorce. Some industries have superior levels of stress compared to others. Helping employees cope with the stressful environment and mental health may be their main focus compared to physical health for another organisation.  

A wellness provider should get to know the organisation, its culture, and its people before setting up a wellness program. If the program doesn’t appeal to the employees and their concerns, it may not be well received or used long-term.

When to Start a Wellness Program in Your Organisation

Getting a full-scale wellness program designed and introduced to staff members can take time, especially if it is a medium-to-large organisation. It may take months of discussions with potential providers, briefing the successful one, and agreeing on the services and features provided.

Look at introducing some initiatives while the entire plan is in development. It doesn’t take long to send a short survey asking employees what they would like to see in the program. Look at the responses and start with one popular idea.

Once the full program is available, you can launch the initiative properly. Initially, surveying staff members and getting started with one or two events will provide insights into the staff's interests, and they can begin to reap the benefits. Starting with small, consistent changes can have a big impact later on.

The most important step is to get started with what you can and build on it in the future with an action plan and policy. Once the program is in place, don’t forget to monitor and evaluate the agenda so you can make changes if required.

We spend so much time at work so it makes sense that employers support their employees to look after their health and wellness. If your employer doesn’t offer health and wellness initiatives, it may be time to inform them of the benefits. If you’re looking to initiate some wellness activities for yourself, check to see what your HIF extras policy will cover. For more information, don’t hesitate to call HIF or contact us online

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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